Books Archive

Monday, September 19, 2011

Book Sale

Update - The sale has been extended until September 26th.

Want to buy the best book ever written*, but $4.99 is just too much? You're in luck. Lulu is running a 15% off sale. Unfortunately, the 15% off doesn't cover shipping or taxes.

LuLu coupon

Here's the small print:

Enter coupon code OKTOBERFEST305 at checkout and receive 15% off your order. The maximum savings for this offer is $200. Sorry, but this offer is only valid in US Dollars and cannot be applied to previous orders. You can only use this code once per account, and unfortunately you can't use this coupon in combination with other coupon codes. This great offer expires on September 23, 2011 at 11:59 PM, so don't miss out! While very unlikely, we do reserve the right to change or revoke this offer at anytime, and of course we cannot offer this coupon where it is against the law to do so. This coupon is good for self-purchases (i.e., Authors buying their own books) and/or it can be shared with Readers and Buyers. Lulu incurs the cost of this discount, so it does not impact the Author's proceeds of the book. This coupon will work for multiple titles but savings cannot go past the maximum of $200. Finally, this coupon does not pertain to shipping costs or taxes.

*Of course, that's a link to my own book, Leaving Christianity. And no, I don't really think it's the best book ever written, but I do think it's worth the time it takes to read. And if $4.99 minus 15% is still too steep, you can read all the essays for free online. Or, you could use that coupon to go buy anything else you want from Lulu. I know I'm tempted to buy The Digital Cuttlefish: Omnibus, a collection of poems by The Digital Cuttlefish

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Book Review - All My Friends Are Dead

I just recently bought* a rather silly book that I happen to like quite a bit, All My Friends Are Dead. It's described as "either the saddest funny book or the funniest sad book you'll ever read." At only 96 pages long, with only a handful of words per page, it can be read cover to cover in less than a quarter of an hour. It's pretty funny, in an off beat way. I've handed it to nearly everyone who's come to the house since I bought it, and so far everyone's laughed out loud while reading it (not necessarily at every joke, but at quite a few). If you want a taste for what's inside, the book's website shares a few of the pages:

Official Website for All My Frieds are Dead

I definitely recommend this book.

* On a trip to the mall with my daughter's girl scout troop, I didn't feel like sticking around Claire's with the girls, so I walked to the store across from it, Spencers, and took a quick look through the books (don't worry - my wife stayed with the girls). I was originally looking to see if they had any Chuck Norris books as a gift to a friend who likes those jokes, when I saw All My Friends Are Dead. I read it completely there in the store, but wasn't sure if I wanted to pay $10 for such a short book, so I put it back, and figured it was about time to catch back up with the troop. Well, the jokes stuck with me, so the next time I was at the mall, I decided to actually buy it. As described above, I've been able to share it with quite a few people, so I think it was worth it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Book Review - More Than a Carpenter

Not too long ago, a friend of mine was in a place of business that had a waiting room (for anonymity, I'm leaving out details of the exact type of business). Among the reading material, he noticed a book titled More Than a Carpenter

If you don't want to read the whole review, I'll summarize. The book was bad. Practically every chapter relied on the Gospels being more or less reliable accounts, and then went off defending Jesus's divinity from there. As I've said plenty of times, if non-believers accepted that the Bible was true, we'd already be Christians. But we don't, so citing scripture as proof is nearly pointless. It would be like trying to prove Mormonism by quoting the Book of Mormon, or Buddhism by quoting the Buddhavacana. McDowell only spent one chapter (Chapter 6) trying to make a case for the Gospels being reliable, and didn't really succeed. And without that base, the rest of his book just falls flat.

Continue reading "Book Review - More Than a Carpenter" »

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Book Review - Why Evolution Is True

I've just finished reading Jerry Coyne's book, Why Evolution Is True. This is one of my new favorites for introducing evolution to people who don't currently understand or accept it. It contains a great balance of theory and evidence, or in other words, explaining how evolution works, as well as showing the evidence of how we know that.

The book covered a wide range of topics, and did it well while keeping the book to a manageable length. It started with an explanation of what evolution actually is. This was a pretty important chapter, given how much many people misunderstand evolution. He then moved on to fossil evidence for evolution, followed by discussion of vestigial organs, embryological evidence, evidence from poor 'design', and biogeographical evidence. Following all that was a discussion of natural selection and sexual selection, and then a discussion of speciation. The penultimate chapter focused on recent human evolution (recent as in after the chimp & bonobo lineage diverged from ours). Finally was a chapter to wrap it all up, which also discussed what some people believe to be implications of evolution (i.e. if it says we're just animals, why not act like animals). Of course, by covering such a broad range of topics, Coyne couldn't delve too deeply into any single one, but I think it was very good for an introductory book.

Why Evolution Is True was written not just to explain evolution, but also as a counter to creationism. In many places, he pointed out why evolution was a more reasonable explanation to certain pieces of evidence than creationism. When I read Richard Dawkins' book, The Greatest Show on Earth, I'd mentioned that he hammered too hard on creationists, and that it was a bit of a distraction. In contrast, Coyne seemed to spend just enough time discussing creationism without it becoming too distracting from the far more interesting story of evolution itself.

Coyne was also very balanced in his discussions of controversial areas, or areas where the evidence isn't conclusive. For example, in the discussion of sexual selection, he mentioned both the good genes hypothesis and the perceptual bias hypothesis, as well as studies that provided evidence for both.

In short, this book is a great introduction to people who don't understand evolution. Donald Prothero's Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters may have a more detailed discussion of the fossil evidence, and Carl Zimmer's The Tangled Bank may have a more detailed discussion of the mechanisms, but Coyne's book has just the right balance of theory and evidence, especially evidence from a broad range of disciplines.

For a great review from Amazon, go here.

Updated 2011-11-02 Fixed link to Zimmer's The Tangled Bank.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Book Review - God- or Gorilla?, First Part of a Series

God or Gorilla PicMy parents bought me an interesting present for Christmas a couple years ago. It was an old book published in 1922, titled God- or Gorilla? How the Monkey Theory of Evolution Exposes Its Own Methods, Refutes Its Own Principles, Denies Its Own Inferences, Disproves Its own Case. As you can guess, the author, Alfred W. McCann, was not a big fan of universal common descent. (For those of you who may be wondering, my parents aren't creationists - they bought the book because they knew I'd find it interesting.)

After reading the book, I knew I wanted to do a review of it on this blog, but I wasn't exactly sure how. McCann's not really a household name, so I didn't feel like he had a strong influence that needed to be countered. I also do have a bit of sympathy for his position, in that the evidence for evolution wasn't quite as strong in the '20s as it is today (it was still pretty strong, though). He also spent a good deal of time debunking the Piltdown Man, which is now widely acknowledged as a hoax. However, one of the things that struck me about the book is that many of the arguments that McCann used are still being used by creationists today, so refuting those arguments is still relevant.

I'd originally intended to quote just a few passages to give the flavor of the book, with a little commentary and links to the relevant entries in the Index to Creationist Claims where appropriate. However, once I started skimming through the book and pulling out interesting quotes, I ended up with 40 pages worth of excerpts! So, I decided to turn this into a series. I'll try to post a new installment to the series every Friday.

McCann's writing style was a bit, shall we say, flamboyant. In fact, it is eerily similar to the kook style you see on Internet forums today. I can only imagine what the book would have looked like if the publisher had allowed multiple fonts, or had the ability to do color printing. I've tried to quote the book faithfully throughout this review. Any italics, bold, or other forms of emphasis, unless specifically noted, were done by McCann himself. On a similar note, McCann was very fond of using '(sic)' in the quotes in his book. To avoid confusion, I'll use '[sic, jrl]' whenever I use the term.

This book is available online through The Internet Archive and Google Books, though without the musty smell and incoherent scribbles in the margins that you get from the real deal. Actually, that's not quite true - the Google copy does have a few scribbles, but not nearly as many as my copy. The Internet Archive edition appears to match the edition I read, while the Google edition lacks the appendices.

Obviously, I'm going to criticize creationism quite a bit in this series of entries, so, let me make the necessary disclaimer right up front. I realize that around half the people in this country are creationists. For most of them, I think it's simply ignorance. I don't mean that as an insult - it's a failure of our country's education system. So, if you're a creationist who's never been exposed to a good discussion of evolution, don't take offense to my comments here. My frustration is directed mainly at people like McCann and his modern day counterparts like Ken Ham or Ray Comfort, who despite being so ignorant of evolution, are actively spreading their misinformation to others. (For a fuller version of this disclaimer, read my entry, Run of the Mill vs. Big Name Creationists.)

To make sure that I didn't stall out mid-book, I actually completed most of the review before I started posting entries. So, I have the advantage of seeing how the entire review turned out, which you readers won't know for a few months. I do think it's interesting, and I hope you enjoy it, but looking back, I'm not sure it was worth the effort I put into it. Had I put the same effort into writing something a little more organized, I probably could have created a better resource for learning about evolution. So, I doubt I'll ever do another review of this depth (I'm no Slacktivist). If you do enjoy this review, savor it.

As one last introductory note, I'll be using this entry as a table of contents for the series. I will make updates here with links to all of the subsequent entries in this review.

Added 2013-01-22 I've slightly reorganized this site, putting all of these entries into their own section. So, if you want to just browse through them all, you can read them at:
God - Or Gorilla? Archive

Proceed to Introduction & Chapter 1


Selling Out